Because research has not confirmed a relationship between compliance with health supervision in infancy and improved health outcomes, we examined the association between adherence to prevailing guidelines for periodic health supervision and adverse health outcome indicated by incidence of avoidable hospitalizations.


This was a historic cohort study of 308 131 children enrolled in Medicaid at birth in California, Georgia, and Michigan in 1990 using Medicaid records linked across 3 years. We used avoidable hospitalizations as indicators of health in a survival analysis. The analysis used variables that represented completeness and timeliness of well-child visits and immunizations using AAP guidelines for health supervision as the gold standard.


When the children in this cohort were up-to-date for age on their schedule of well-child visits, they were less likely to have an avoidable hospitalization (race, illness, and level of poverty adjusted hazard ratios 0.52 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.50–0.55] in California, 0.54 [95% CI: 0.50–0.55] in Georgia, and 0.7 [95% CI: 0.69–0.79] in Michigan). Among children who were not up-to-date with well-child visits, a sporadic preventive care visit conferred a mild benefit. Immunizations and race/ethnicity had no consistent relationship with incidence of avoidable hospitalizations.


A series of well-child visits maintained during the first 2 years of life has a positive effect on health outcomes as indicated by a decrease in avoidable hospitalizations among poor and near-poor children, regardless of race, level of poverty, or health status. National efforts to improve the quality of child health services for young children should focus on increasing compliance with periodic preventive care for young children in addition to improving immunization levels.

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